So there you have it….the full suite of Thinking Process tools from the Theory of Constraints. All of these tools can be used in standalone situations, or together they form a comprehensible problem-solving and change management system. Their basic purpose is to decode and translate the insight of a team of people into detailed problem analysis and then create a viable solution. The good news is, all of the tools are based upon logic and common sense to help teams facilitate communication, teamwork and agreement. Agreement on a win-win solution that is. We started this series of postings on the TP tools by presenting a fictitious company named the Dome Company (Focus and Leverage Part 193).
We started with the realization that we needed to answer three critical questions:
1. What do I need to change?
2. What do I need to change to?
3. How do I cause the change to happen?
In attempting to answer the first question, we performed an assessment of our current reality by identifying and describing our organization’s current reality. We did so by identifying the organization’s Undesirable Effects (UDE’s pronounced oodees) and then linking as many UDE’s through sufficiency based logic. We constructed a Current Reality Tree (CRT) to ultimately find Dome’s core problem(s) and answer the question of what we needed to change (Focus and Leverage Part 194 and 195).
We then moved on to the next TP Tool, the Conflict Resolution Diagram (Focus and Leverage Parts 198 199, 200 and 201) to firmly cement what we believed was our core problem. We identified a conflict and then identified injections on how to break the existing conflict, but we need the help of another tool, the Future Reality Tree to test the injections. Both of these tools helped us begin to answer the second question, what do I need to change to. In other words, we needed to describe a strategy to define and attain a desired future state.
In Focus and Leverage Parts 202, 203, and 204 we presented and constructed the Future Reality Tree, a tool to help us answer the question of what to change to. The FRT uses sufficiency based logic (i.e. If this...., then that….) and is a tool that provides a platform to test ideas and look for the merits and also the possible negative effects that might be created in the future. We told you that many times people will have a seemingly good idea to solve a problem and the FRT allows you to test the merits of the idea before taking any action to implement it. In other words, the FRT provides a means to look for any negative effects that might appear if, and when, the new idea is implemented.
Once an answer has been isolated that appears to create the Desired Effects for the future we must determine how best to implement the idea. We then presented The Prerequisite Tree (PRT) which allows for the logical links, and thinking, to determine what steps will be necessary to implement the idea (injection) and make it a reality (Focus and Leverage parts 205, 206 and 207). The PRT becomes the transition tool to move the thinking from “What to change to” to “How to cause the change to happen”.
What the PRT facilitates is to determine what tasks (IO’s) are required to achieve the “objective” you want. We also determine what the obstacles are for why you can’t make the objective happen RIGHT NOW! With the obstacles defined we develop the Intermediate Objective (IO’s) that, if in place, will remove the obstacles. We explained that with the obstacles defined we needed to develop the Intermediate Objective (IO’s) that, if in place, will remove the obstacles. We said that with the IO’s defined we now have the list of tasks that must be completed to get to the objective. Even with the IO’s defined it can be daunting to look at the list and say, “Where do I begin?” We told you that if the necessity logic is correct, the structure of the PRT defines the intrinsic order of task completion. Now the mystery is solved! Now you can see exactly where to begin the concept of “how to cause the change to happen.”
Our final TP tool that we explained was the Transition Tree (TT) presented in Focus and Leverage parts 208 and 209. The TT is used to finally answer the question of how to cause the change to happen. The TT provides the detailed description of the Desired Outcomes (DO’s) that will help us gradually evolve the changes we envision to occur in reality by accomplishing the Defined Actions.
The Transition Tree demonstrated what actions you need to take and in what order you need to take them. We told you that there is no mystery, if we give you the place to start and the action to take. Transition Trees are really very simple. The important part about constructing a TT is to make the action at a level that you can do right now.
We finished our TT discussion by explaining that there is also a possibility that a negative branch could be associated with a TT. We told you to keep your eyes open for possible negative branches that could come from action(s) you take or, from desired effects that are either achieved, or missed, because of a negative branch. If such is the case, an alternative action is needed to overcome the negative effects.
While the Thinking Process Tools are highly effective, one of the down sides is the length of time required to complete a full systems analysis. Even though the end is clearly worth the means, not every organization is willing to push on and complete the full analysis. This is clearly one of the primary reasons why TP analyses have had a difficult time being accepted and used by organizations. In our next series of postings Bruce and I are going to demonstrate an alternative method which significantly shortens the length of time to assess and ultimately improve your organization. I will warn you in advance, the hard core TOC aficionados will not agree with our methodology, but all I can tell you is that it works. Stay tuned for this next series. I am going on vacation for the next several days and plan to spend quality time with 4 of my 6 grandbabies.